What Are Americans’ Most Urgent Health Problems?

Gallup: “Americans continue to name the cost of (22%) and access to (20%) healthcare as the most urgent health problems facing the U.S. Obesity and cancer are next on the list, cited by 15% and 14%, respectively. No other issue receives more than 2% of mentions from Americans.”

Trend: Cost and Access Remain Most Commonly Named as Urgent Health Problems

“The percentages mentioning both cost and access are down from the later years of George W. Bush’s administration, even though they remain the top overall issues.”

White Working-Class Americans: A Persecuted Group?

Citylab reports on a recently released American Values Survey.

“With a focus on national-level concerns and the presidential election, the survey provides insight into why some Americans support the candidates they do. Particularly visible are the anxieties of white, working-class voters, who form the majority of Donald Trump’s Republican backers. Their support for Trump appears to be most closely linked to attitudes on immigration. Sixty-nine percent of Trump supporters responded that immigration is a critical issue to them personally, compared to just half of those who support other Republican candidates.”

“White, working-class Americans also voice also a strong sense of personal discrimination against them. Nearly three-quarters of Trump supporters feel that ‘discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities,’ compared to 57 percent of supporters of other Republican candidates and 25 percent of all Americans. Forty-two percent of Trump’s backers believe that “white men face a lot of discrimination in the U.S. today,” 12 percent more than those supporting other Republican candidates.”

“Who cares what white, working-class Americans think? Obviously, it matters from a political perspective. But recall that this group has been making news for reasons other than its support of Trump.”


The Latest in a Trend of Global Warming Milestones

Mashable: “The planet has not been only record warm this year, it’s been so unusually mild that the temperature records themselves have set records of their own. This is the case with October 2015, according to new preliminary NASA data released Tuesday.”

“The information shows that October 2015 was by far the warmest October on record, dating back to 1880. Not only that, but October also had the largest temperature departure from average of any month on record.”

“Importantly, this was also the first time that a single month exceeded the 1-degree Celsius temperature anomaly, surpassing the 0.97 degree Celsius temperature anomaly in January 2007. This is a symbolic milestone, but one that will be broken more frequently as the climate continues to warm due to increasing amounts of greenhouse gases in the air because of human activities.”

“According to NASA, the January through October period ranks as the warmest such period in its 136 years of record-keeping, with a temperature anomaly of 0.82 degrees Celsius, or 1.45 degrees Fahrenheit. This beats global average temperature anomalies for the same period last year, which was 0.76 degrees Celsius, or 1.37 degrees Fahrenheit above average.”

Despite Successes, Americans’ View of Obamacare Tilts Negative

Wall Street Journal: “By now, supporters and opponents of the Affordable Care Act often divide along ‘glass half full or half empty’ lines over similar facts, and each perspective was on display at the Wall Street Journal CEO Council on Tuesday.”

“’We believe coverage in general has been improved’ by the 2010 law, said Health and Human Services senior counselor Leslie Dach. ‘That’s an important beginning.’”

“His agency has estimated that the law has extended coverage to 17.6 million people, between its provision requiring plans to cover young adult dependents to their 26th birthdays, the expansion of Medicaid, and the availability of subsidized private coverage to everyone through HealthCare.gov and state equivalents. The law also imposes new requirements on insurance plans on what they must cover, and says they must price coverage equally regardless of people’s medical history, and these affect everyone who gets insurance on their own.”

Despite the progress, Americans views on Obamacare have tilted negative, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Americans' Views of the Affordable Care Act

Gallup: “The law’s continued survival and its empirical success in lowering the uninsured rate has not made much difference in how Americans feel about the law. As such, it seems doubtful that the law will be broadly accepted in the U.S. political system in the near future. It will likely remain the target of efforts to repeal or significantly modify it, which could finally prevail if Americans elect a wholly Republican federal government in 2016.”

‘War on Coal’ Rhetoric Cools in 2016 Campaign

The Hill: “Coal is largely taking a back seat in the Republican race for the White House.

“GOP candidates instead are calling for an increase to oil and natural gas production while they promise to roll back Obama’s regulations, some of which affect the coal industry.”

“Talking about coal isn’t the best way to appeal to younger voters, say some experts. And while coal is a dominant issue in some states, it’s not seen as a national issue.”

“It seems that just intoning ‘war on coal’ is only good politics in Appalachia — and a few other places like Wyoming — and Republican politicians still use that language there, but they probably feel they have little to gain by framing things in those terms at the national level,” said Philip Wallach, of the Brookings Institution.

Still, “Daniel J. Weiss, senior vice president for campaigns at the League of Conservation Voters, noted that each Republican candidate opposes Obama’s new anti-climate change rules for power plants. That means that they want more coal-fired electricity generation.”

In Defense of Obamacare’s High Deductibles

Megan McArdle comes to the defense of the high deductibles of the exchange policies that most people are buying.

“Health-care wonks have started to see health insurance less as a way to ensure health, and more as a way to avoid financial disaster. (As one health-care economist told me … Insurance is a financial product, and what it does really well is give people financial protection.) In other words, the alternative to buying health insurance may not be ‘dying young’; it may be bankruptcy, or at least, a trashed credit report after you’ve negotiated settlements on all your medical bills.”

“It’s not Obamacare’s fault that it didn’t manage to do the impossible: provide cheap, nearly comprehensive health-care coverage without ballooning the deficit. No other reform could have done it either, without tackling provider prices — and no politically feasible reform could have tackled provider prices, because America’s 12 million health-care workers would have been marching on Washington with pitchforks, or at least running tear-jerking ads to great popular effect.”

“You can’t really blame Obamacare for the fact that the most ‘affordable’ insurance offers rather scanty coverage for the average user. Though of course, you can blame the law’s architects for overpromising. They should have been more honest, with themselves and with voters, about the limits of what they could actually do. But of course if they had been, the law probably would never have passed.”


Oklahoma Experiences More Earthquakes Than Anywhere Else in the World

Eco Watch: “It’s official: Oklahoma now has more earthquakes than anywhere else in the world, according to a spokesman from the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), which oversees the Sooner State’s oil and gas industry.”

“OCC has developed areas of interest, where earthquake clusters have occurred. A cluster is two earthquakes within a half mile of each other, with one measuring at least magnitude 3.2. Originally, they were three-mile circles, then six-mile circles. The circles grew in number and now encompass a very large area of Oklahoma—about 9,000 square miles in all.”

“Oklahoma went from two earthquakes a year before 2009 to two a day. This year, roughly 700 earthquakes of magnitude 3 or higher has shook the state, compared to 20 in 2009.”

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“Scientists have linked this never-ending spate of tremors to the state’s drilling boom. The Oklahoma Geological Survey concluded that the injection of wastewater byproducts into deep underground disposal wells from fracking operations has triggered the seismic activity in Oklahoma.”

Governments Spend Over $450 Billion Annually to Subsidize Fossil Fuels

Inside Climate News: “The governments of the world’s 20 largest economies spend more than $450 billion annually subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, a new analysis has concluded, four times more than what they spend on renewable energy.”

“The report by Oil Change International, a Washington-based advocacy organization, and the Overseas Development Institute, a British research group, calculates the amount of money the G20 nations provide to oil, gas and coal companies through tax breaks, low cost loans and government investments.”

Terrorist Acts Prompt Governors to Reject Syrian Refugees Fleeing Terrorism

CNN: “More than half the nation’s governors — 27 states — say they oppose letting Syrian refugees into their states, although the final say on this contentious immigration issue will fall to the federal government. States protesting the admission of refugees range from Alabama and Georgia, to Texas and Arizona, to Michigan and Illinois, to Maine and New Hampshire. Among these 27 states, all but one have Republican governors.”

Washington Post 11/17/15 newsletter: “The idea of allowing Syrian refugees into America is creating fear and anxiety among some Americans — especially Republicans, who a September Quinnipiac poll found were overwhelmingly opposed to allowing Syrian refugees into the United States.”

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“In that poll, 81 percent of Republicans also said they think the Syrian refugees would pose a security risk. Perhaps no one channels those fears like Donald Trump, who has been willing to go further than any other politician to play up Americans’ national insecurities. On Monday, he said he’d “strongly consider” closing some mosques in the United States in the wake of the Paris attacks.”

Is the Economy Really on the Upswing?

New York Times: “Lawmakers, most of them Republican, have steadfastly rejected policies to stimulate the economy and Federal Reserve officials have been trying to convince everyone, including themselves, that the economy is reliably on the upswing.”

“It’s not … Growth has been lopsided, with virtually all of the income and wealth accruing to those at the top of the economic ladder. Little has been done to counter that dynamic – Obamacare is a notable exception because health coverage reduces the threat of job loss and bankruptcy from poor health. But most policymaking, or lack thereof — including big and untimely federal budget cuts coupled with the continued erosion of labor standards — has reinforced lopsided growth.”

“Rising prosperity for the few means undue hardship for the many. That is the economy’s underlying problem and it won’t be solved until policymakers face up to it.”

Are Iowans Really That “Stupid?”

Philip Bump counters Trump’s assertion about the stupidity of the “people of Iowa.”

“Well, we can answer that. Not stupid at all. In fact, Iowa is one of the smartest states in America … In order to figure out how smart each state was, we looked at objective measures we had at our disposal. Specifically:”

  1. IQ, as estimated by Virginia Commonwealth’s Michael McDaniel in 2006
  2. 2015 SAT scores, compiled by The Post
  3. 2015 ACT scores, via the company that administers the tests
  4. The percentage of college graduates in the state, compiled by the Census Bureau

“The results? Iowa is the eighth-smartest state, behind, in order: Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Kansas and Vermont. Donald Trump’s home state of New York came in 17th. The bottom five states were Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada and, in the 50th spot, Hawaii.”

“One very good way not to figure out how smart a state is is by judging its early-primary polling. If you’re Donald Trump, the stupidest conceivable position for a Republican voter is to support someone else. But that is about as subjective an analysis as you can imagine. By any other metric, Iowa’s interest in voting for someone besides the New York real estate magnate is a decision being made by a pretty smart state.”

Will Solar Die if the Investment Tax Credit Isn’t Renewed?

Wall Street Journal: “At the end of next year, the 30% investment tax credit for solar and other renewable power is set to expire for residential systems and plunge to 10% for commercial installations. Boosters are calling for Congress to extend the credit in its current form.”

“Amit Ronen, director of the GW Solar Institute and a professor at the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy at George Washington University, argues that the end of the 30% credit will send solar off a cliff. “

“According to Energy Information Administration data, if the 30% credit is not extended, rooftop solar photovoltaic installations will plunge 94% in 2017 from a year earlier and utility-scale projects will decline 100%, with neither recovering anywhere close to today’s levels even a decade from now. Bloomberg predicts solar installations will drop by two-thirds in 2017, which the Solar Energy Industries Association estimates will cost America 100,000 jobs.”

“The tax credit has been a solid investment for America, which shouldn’t be abandoned abruptly or prematurely. If our goal is to diversify and decarbonize our nation’s energy portfolio, why would we eliminate the credit before removing billions of dollars of subsidies for fossil fuels? If our goal is to provide more consumer choice and lower electricity bills, why would we want to cut off the credit just as it is starting to benefit America and its households?”

The GOP’s Hard-Money Orthodoxy

Paul Krugman comments on what he sees as something relatively new on the GOP policy front: “an increasingly unified Republican demand for hard-money policies, even in a depressed economy.”

“Republicans have turned their back on [Milton] Friedman, whether they know it or not, and draw their monetary doctrine from ‘Austrian’ economists like Friedrich Hayek … when they aren’t turning directly to Ayn Rand.”

“This turn wasn’t driven by experience. The new Republican monetary orthodoxy has already failed the reality test with flying colors: that ‘debased’ dollar has risen 30 percent against other major currencies since 2011, while inflation has stayed low … But years of predictive failure haven’t stopped the orthodoxy from tightening its grip on the party. What’s going on?”

“My main answer would be that the Friedman compromise — trash-talking government activism in general, but asserting that monetary policy is different — has proved politically unsustainable. You can’t, in the long run, keep telling your base that government bureaucrats are invariably incompetent, evil or both, then say that the Fed, which is, when all is said and done, basically a government agency run by bureaucrats, should be left free to print money as it sees fit.”